Mormon women worldwide lobby for ethical government

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Sharlee Mullins Glenn, founder of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, addresses an audience at the organization’s first annual conference on March 24. Mullins Glenn never considered herself a political activist until she felt deeply concerned about the divisive and hateful politics she saw during and after the 2016 presidential election. (Savannah Hopkinson)

Sharlee Mullins Glenn said she had absolutely no idea she was starting a movement.

As a writer and BYU graduate living in Pleasant Grove, she felt deeply concerned about the direction of the country following President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

Determined to take action, Mullins Glenn created a Facebook group where she invited a few friends to strategize against what they felt was unethical government.

“We were concerned about the divisiveness and the vitriol,” Mullins Glenn said. “People seemed to be shouting at each other from both sides of the political divide.” 

Friends invited friends who invited friends. Within four weeks, the group had 4,000 members.

“I think particularly Mormon women right now are concerned about the divisiveness,” Mullins Glenn said. “They see a need to bring our country together and to find common ground.”

With the unexpected support, Mullins Glenn and other founders scrambled to organize Mormon Women for Ethical Government: a worldwide group of activists dedicated to ethical policies, politicians and government.

Sharlee Mullins Glenn speaks in Washington, D.C. in November 2017 alongside Moms Rising in support of protection for Dreamers — immigrants who came to the United States as children. Mormon Women for Ethical Government opposes immigration measures that separate families. (Maren Mecham)

“We joke that we had set it up to be this little living room where a few of us could sit around sipping herbal tea and talking,” Mullins Glenn said, laughing. “And suddenly we had to build a convention center to accommodate 4,000 women.” 

Melissa Dalton-Bradford, one of the five founders of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, said the group struck a nerve with women around the globe.

Dalton-Bradford, a Utah native, currently lives in Germany with her husband. She calls herself the international voice of the group. Along with 38 state and regional chapters, Mormon Women for Ethical Government has also established chapters in Western Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

“We have recognized really quickly the power of the individual voice,” Dalton-Bradford said. “We had, up until this point, probably underestimated what average American citizens can do if you know who to contact and if you mobilize.”

Mormon Women for Ethical Government member Jillaire McMillan marches at the Denver March for Truth in June 2017. (Maren Mecham)

Much of the group’s work focuses on contacting state and federal legislators. When urgent action is needed to oppose or support a bill or action, the group’s Facebook page issues a “Code Purple,” inviting all 6,000 members to flood their representatives with phone calls and letters.

To organize the efforts, Mormon Women for Ethical Government has committees on discrimination, disabilities, racism, religious freedom, education, environment and immigration, among other topics.

The group issued its most recent Code Purple in December 2017 when the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) failed to receive a funding renewal.

Besides phone calls and letters to representatives, often in purple envelopes, Mormon Women for Ethical Government lobbies at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Members write opinion editorials that have been published in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, the New York Times, the Hill and the Washington Examiner. The group has also hosted rallies for voter registration and clean air.

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Posted by Mormon Women for Ethical Government on Friday, December 8, 2017

On March 24, Mormon Women for Ethical Government held its first conference on the BYU campus. The conference sold out.

Utah Chapter co-lead Megan Blood Seawright speaks at a voter registration rally in Provo in August 2017. (Maren Mecham)

“Our goal is to enable women to see ways that they can make a positive impact in the community, both in Utah and within our country,” conference director Kara North said. “Anything we can do to empower these women as they go back into their communities to make a difference and be that significant force for good is what we’re looking to accomplish.” 

The conference focused on educating members on how to be more effective in political involvement. Like the five founders of the group, many members never considered themselves political activists until now.

Dalton-Bradford said political engagement has been energizing for women who have questioned their presence and value in the political arena.

Yvette Farnsworth, Diana Hardy and Molly Hogan — leaders of the Mormon Women for Ethical Government immigration committee — lobby on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The women delivered “Mormon Women for Ethical Government’s Fifteen Declarations on Ethical Immigration Policy” to 14 members of Congress. (Maren Mecham)

“All of a sudden, they’re writing their letters and they’re talking on the phone to their political leaders,” Dalton-Bradford said. “We’re grooming women to run for office, and we have a number of women who are running for local and regional office now who had never dreamt of doing it a year ago.”

Mullins Glenn said she’s thrilled to see a moment, not just in Utah or the U.S. but around the world, of women leading the discussion in politics.

“Women are really finding their voices and just recognizing that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Mullins Glenn said. “It’s our moment. It’s our time.”

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